Scraping by in the Big Eighties

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U of Nebraska Press, 2004 - Biography & Autobiography - 225 pages
Natalia Singer's plan, when she headed for Seattle in 1979, was to get laid off, go on unemployment, and become laid back. Meanwhile she would train herself to become a writer. Rejecting the avid materialism of her generation and the violence of American culture, she vowed to surround herself with natural beauty, steer clearĝof her mentally ill mother, and contribute nothing to the fluorescent-lit, acronym-ridden, anesthetizing military-industrial complex. Her quest, which she hoped would bring her peace, safety, and creative fulfillment, actually put her increasingly in harm's way. It has, however, paid enormous dividends for readers who here have the perverse yet exquisite pleasure of following Singer's low-budget search for a bohemian haven during the last gasp of the cold war.

Singer's tortuous path, chronicled with self-deprecating wit and disconcerting candor, leads her to a duplex in Seattle, a Buddhist monastery in the Catskills, a ghost town on the Olympic Peninsula, a beach hut in Mexico, graduate school in western Massachusetts, and even a Left Bank convent, but it never frees her from her identity and obligations as an American, either at home or abroad. Singer blends memoir with cultural history to critique Reaganomics, military buildups in the face of eroding social programs and growing national debt, the hypocrisy of so-called family values, and her own complicity in all of it. Scraping By in the Big Eighties is, more than anything, about taking politics personally. Lyrical, meditative, occasionally heartbreaking, and often darkly comic, this book about mistakes blithely made in decades past is nonetheless still timely today.

 

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I've just read chapter 3, which included the info about Bill. I knew Bill from NU's Tech Inst library, where he had a friend (Sharon), and they invited us out to see Ezra Quantine. Some other library workers and I went there several times (I was full time library worker, night time NU student). We loved the band, and Bill. It's interesting to know how he ended up. I had been on a spiritual journey with a guru prior to going to NU. I hope you and he are well in the present. Thanks for the trip 'back. 

Contents

Soul Work in the Age of Reagan
3
A Room of Blue Flowers
13
When the Monks Wept
21
Voodoo Economics
28
Postcard from the New Economy
36
The Come As You Are Not Party
37
Postcard from the Streer
52
BRAVE NEW WORLDS 19821984
57
MOURNING IN AMERICA 19841987
123
Postcards from the Campaign Trail
125
Girls Having Fun
140
And There Fell a Great Star
150
My Dinner with the Ollie Norths
162
How I Survived the Crash
169
Whire Like Me
179
Family Values
193

Shelrer
59
The Paradise at the End of the World
89
The Nutmeg War
103
In the Courtyard of the Iguana Brothers
105
AFTERWORD
221
Source Acknowledgments
227
Copyright

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About the author (2004)

Natalia Rachel Singer is an associate professor of English at St. Lawrence University. She is the coeditor of Living North Country: Essays on Life and Landscapes in Northern New York.

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